Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

The President Parrots an Insane Conspiracy Theory About the Elderly Activist Shoved to the Ground by Police Officers Last Week

Stephen A. Crockett Jr., the Root:

By now, we’ve all seen the horrific footage of 75-year-old Martin Gugino being shoved to the ground by two Buffalo, N.Y., police officers during a George Floyd protest Thursday. […]

Yes, you read this correctly: the President of the United States is suggesting that Gugino is possibly an antifa operative who was working to block police radios, and I just… I don’t even know what to make of this. In fact, I’ve typed several times that the President of the United States believes that a 75-year-old man who was shoved to the ground by police, with blood pouring from his head, is really a secret agent for a political protest movement, and I don’t even know what to make of it.

Rashaan Ayesh, Axios:

The conspiracy theory, which originated on the far-right blog Conservative Treehouse, made its way to the president via a report on One America News Network, a small Fox News rival with a history of conspiracy-focused reporting. It highlights just how far the president’s media consumption can veer from the mainstream.

Bruce Potter:

Having built things that do RF scanning, the idea that at close range they have to be directional is just not right. Further, this scanner can apparently “black out” comms? Again, this is the stuff of aliens/sci-fi movies. Now millions will think [it’s] possible AND randos have them.

Every single information security professional I could find reacted to this theory with a sort of laughing incredulity. It is staggering that anyone would believe this, but I suppose it shouldn’t be since morons are burning down radio towers because they believe that 5G waves caused the novel coronavirus to spread.

It is not news that the president of the United States gets his information from sources that serve primarily to flatter him, nor is it surprising that he has a difficult time telling reality from fiction. He is not a smart man. But in an age of institutional failure and justified unrest, he is using his inherently powerful platform to malign an elderly activist and spread the wet droppings of a fringe blog and Sputnik-adjacent cable network.

Update: Facebook employee Brandon Dail:

Trump’s attack on Martin Gugino is despicable and a clear violation Facebook’s anti-harassment rules. It’s again extremely disappointing that we (and Twitter) haven’t removed it.

The amount of mental gymnastics required to assume good intent and ignore impact are astounding.

I’ve been trying to write something about the moderation policies of Twitter and Facebook, but it changes radically by the day and I am exhausted. I hope to publish more on this soon.

For now, let’s acknowledge how bizarre it is that Twitter will carefully moderate direct calls to violence by the president and his lackeys, but won’t intervene when the president uses his enormous platform to couch aspersions in phoney questions. Meanwhile, Facebook is happy to let the president say whatever he wants.